The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Year In Review

It seems that the week between Christmas and New Year precipitates a cascade of "year's best," and "year's worst" lists along with "year-in-review" media pieces as New Year's Day approaches. I'll pass, but I can't help noting the list provided by one of my favorite humorists, Pulitzer Prize winning Dave Barry (please read the whole thing), who notes that he has been accused in past years of being to negative, so this year he's going to make his list positive. He begins his piece thusly:
1. We didn’t hear that much about Honey Boo Boo [in 2015].


OK, we’ll have to get back to you on Good Things 2 through 10. We apologize, but 2015 had so many negatives that we’re having trouble seeing the positives. It’s like we’re on the Titanic, and it’s tilting at an 85-degree angle with its propellers way up in the air, and we’re dangling over the cold Atlantic trying to tell ourselves: “At least there’s no waiting for the shuffleboard courts!”

Are we saying that 2015 was the worst year ever? Are we saying it was worse than, for example, 1347, the year when the Bubonic Plague killed a large part of humanity?

Yes, we are saying that.
In thinking back on the year, I can't help thinking of a crude comment that a old friend used to make now and then when he became really frustrated with the powers that be, He'd exclaim, "We're being led by assholes and assassins."

2015 exemplifies that sage wisdom.

You kinda get the feeling that the folks who are supposed to be our "leaders" are more concerned about the "shuffleboard courts" than they are about the icebergs. In fact, they would argue that icebergs that sink ships are "extremists" and have nothing whatsoever to do with ice or cold. In fact, those who think otherwise are "iceophobic."

I'm spending this day in transit between Mumbai, India and Miami, currently sitting in the Zurich airport. With all of the problems we have with the federal government in the United States, our incompetent, dishonest and highly ideological national leadership, the herd of corrupt, dishonest, demagogic, stupid, or uninspiring 2016 presidential candidates (on both sides), our weak economy and frightening national debt, and our weak, ineffectual interaction with the rest of the world, I'll still be very glad to be home.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Joseph and Mary

During the Christmas holiday season there have been articles written by leftist commentators that suggest that the “Israeli occupation of palestinian lands” would have created problems for Joseph and Mary as they made their way toward Bethlehem. For example, one writer shows us just how clever he can be by suggesting that Israeli checkpoints would have slowed their progress toward Bethlehem.

David Bernstein deconstructs these idiotic pieces:
Well, since Joseph and Mary were Judeans, i.e., Jews, from Nazareth, they wouldn’t need to be afraid of Israeli roadblocks needed to combat Palestinian terrorism, but of being murdered by terrorists from Hamas or Fatah.

Seriously, this sort of historical revisionism, treating ancient Jewish Judeans as if they were Palestinian Arabs, and then analogizing modern Israel to the oppressors of Jesus and his family, a common trope in the UK, would be laughable if it were not so pernicious. Pernicious not simply because it’s a ridiculous distortion of history, and not simply because it’s often accompanied by a large dose of anti-Semitism, with Palestinians playing the role of Jesus and the Israelis being the foreign oppressors crucifying him. But pernicious because it goes to the true heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict–the failure of the Arab side to recognize that the “Zionists” are not the “European settler-colonialists” of Third Worldist imagination, but a people with a three thousand year plus tie to the Land of Israel, whose religion was born there, who ruled two separate kingdoms there, who have prayed toward Jerusalem for two thousand years in their ancient Hebrew language, and so on.

Such denial, coming frequently from even “moderate” Palestinian Authority officials, that there was ever a Jewish kingdom or temple in Jerusalem, or that the Jews otherwise are natives to the area, means that the Arab side can’t see any potential peace agreement as a historic reconciliation between two peoples with strong claims to the land, but as at best a humiliating capitulation to foreign occupation that would have to eventually be reversed. Until that mindset changes, there won’t be long-term peace, regardless of paper agreements, and regardless of their terms–even a radical one-state solution with an Arab majority wouldn’t work if that majority thought it was being forced to cohabitate with foreign colonialist interlopers. Writers like Hasan [the author of one such Joseph and Marry article] are quite simply the enemies of peace.
There have been rumors that in 2016, Barack Obama and his foreign policy Team of 2s, led by John Kerry, are going to make one last ditch effort to coerce Israel into a “peace agreement” with the Palestinians. That would be the same peaceful-loving Palestinians who continue to murder Israeli civilians in random knife attacks. The same peaceful-loving Palestinians who continue to launch rockets across the Israeli border. The same peaceful-loving Palestinians, who, as Berntein wryly observes, would have considered Mary the target of an honor killing because she was “pregnant out of wedlock.”

Something tells me that Joseph and Marry would not be amused by anyone, John Kerry included, who tried to force a peace agreement with a murderous group that wants to kill Jews.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

It’s not me, it’s you

In a year end interview with NPR, Barack Obama tells us that everything he is doing is working out really, really well. Yes, there is criticism, but is caused by one of three factors:
  1. He has failed to adequately explain his approach to the American people (implication: his nuanced and highly intelligent approach to foreign and domestic policy (including "extremism") is simply too sophisticated for us bumpkins outside the beltway.
  2. His political opponents are his sworn enemies, and their criticism has no merit.
  3. His opponents are closet racists, and any criticism is due to the color of his skin.
Peter Wehner provides a caustic response to Obama's narrative that all of his policies are unqualified successes and that the only problem is that maybe his messaging hasn't been adequate:
This is always Obama’s explanation: He’s wonderful, his programs are fantastic successes, there’s nothing he has done wrong or needs to change. The problem is that the American people, slightly dim-witted and misled by the pervasive, suffocating dominance of conservative media in America, are blind to Obama’s stunning historical achievements. His only failure is that he’s focused too much on “just doing the right thing” and not enough on telling his story. You know Obama; he always spends too little time broadcasting his own world-historical achievements.

This is utter nonsense, of course, the delusional excuses of a narcissistic chief executive who constantly feels under appreciated. Obama’s failures are objective failures. They have nothing to do with a problem in communication; it has everything to do with a failure in substance, in conception and execution, in reality.

Yet Obama, operating in his own bubble, surrounded by courtiers and sycophants, believes in his own greatness. He not only doesn’t accept responsibility for his own missteps and mistakes; he cannot even process the information. It doesn’t compute. His mind is as brittle as his personality can be bristly. No one is to challenge the great and mighty Obama.
Kevin Williamson is equally caustic when he respond to Barack Obama's implication that his critics are closet racists. He writes:
In a pre-vacation interview with NPR, the president argued that (as The New York Times decodes the message) “some of the scorn directed at him personally stems from the fact that he is the first African American to hold the White House.” ...

This is kind of clever, in a way. The president says that much of the unhappiness with his administration is “pretty specific to me, and who I am and my background,” which is slippery in that by saying it’s about him, he’s really saying it’s about his critics, and their bigotry and prejudice. “It’s not me, it’s you.”

This is, needless to say, intellectual dishonesty, which is Barack Obama’s specialty. Yes, there are racists in the world, and they are engaged in politics, mainly in the form of basement-dwelling losers with Dungeons and Dragons avatars oinking about on Twitter. They are a significant consideration if you are Donald Trump’s psephological engineers. They are not much of a real factor if you are Barack Obama wondering why you haven’t been celebrated like one of the men on Mount Rushmore.
Something else is going on as well. Obama suggests that his critics dislike him, but haven't a clue with regard to an alternative course of action. For example, during his NPR interview, he stated: “... those who are critics of our administration response, or the military, the intelligence response that we are currently mounting—when you ask them, well, what would you do instead, they don't have an answer.”

That is, to put it bluntly, a flat-out lie. There have been and continue to be many plans offered for defeating ISIS, from no fly zones in Syria to additional boots on the ground, from military actions to remove ISIS' alternative safe havens (e.g., Libya) to modifications in our rules of engagement in Iraq, from changes to our immigration policies for countries that harbor Islamists to changes in the manner we perform domestic surveillance, from arming the Kurds with heavy weapons to diplomatic efforts to get Turkey to provide assistance.

Nah, Obama's opponents "don't have an answer," they have a multitude of answers, but this president is too arrogant to even acknowledge their suggestions, let alone implement any of them.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


The last year of Barack Obama's presidency will begin in less than one month. In as earlier assessment of his presidency, I wrote the following in summary after a detailed assessment of his many, many failures during first seven years in office:
Barack Obama is the worst president in my lifetime and arguably, the worst president in the history of the United States. A winning smile, an ability to read a teleprompter with natural intonation, and the obvious fact that Obama is the first African American president, do absolutely nothing to change my assessment of the man, his lack of accomplishment, or the potentially irreparable damage he has done.

Is there any good that can come out of Barack Obama's presidency? It's hard to say. Some good can be derived from the Obama era if the American people learn from it. But what, exactly, is there to learn?

... here's what we can learn: Ideologically driven decision making, coupled with lack of executive experience, coupled with no skill in team building (the Team of 2s), coupled with an inability to adapt and change course, coupled with a hyper-partisan world view that rejects meaningful negotiation and demonizes opponents, all coupled with a copious dose of hubris—leads to ruin.
Phil Gramm And Michael Solon offer some hope to those of us who are concerned about Obama's attempt to create an imperial presidency, one in which he disregards existing law (e.g., arbitrarily postponing Obamacare provisions) and "legislating" by executive fiat (e.g. changes in immigration policy that affect millions of illegal immigrants). They write:
President Obama seems to aspire to join Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan as one of the three most transformative presidents of the past hundred years, and by all outward signs he has achieved that goal. But while Roosevelt and Reagan sold their programs to the American people and enacted them with bipartisan support, Mr. Obama jammed his partisan agenda down the public’s throat. The Obama legacy is built on executive orders, regulations and agency actions that can be overturned using the same authority Mr. Obama employed to put them in place.

An array of President Obama’s policies—changing immigration law, blocking the Keystone XL pipeline, the Iranian nuclear agreement and the normalization of relations with Cuba, among others—were implemented exclusively through executive action. Because any president is free “to revoke, modify or supersede his own orders or those issued by a predecessor,” as the Congressional Research Service puts it, a Republican president could overturn every Obama executive action the moment after taking the oath of office.
The sad reality is that Barack Obama has set a precedent for an imperial presidency that could be adopted by presidents that follow. Regardless of whether the next president is a Republican or a Democrat, many of Obama's borderline unlawful and arguably unconstitutional actions should be rolled back. That might happen under a GOP president. It will not happen under a Democrat and taking Obama's lead may, in fact, get worse.

Monday, December 21, 2015

People Have to Work

Last week, I gave a talk about the potential threats posed by artificial intelligence as we move inexorably toward "artificial general intelligence." My audience was a group of academics and IT professionals in New Delhi, India.

One of the threats I discussed was the "labor substitution problem." That is, the ability of advanced combination of computing and robotics to eliminate the need for human workers across a broad range of work—from low-skill labor to blue collar skilled labor to white collar professional labor. Most technologists recognize this threat but rationalize it by suggesting that new jobs will replace the old ones and that "progress" demands these advances.

After the talk I visited a number of cities throughout India and gained additional insight into all of this.  Throughout the country, artisanal work is being conducted in much the same manner as it has been conducted for centuries, using tools that have remained largely unchanged for centuries, by people who are descendants of the laborers, artisans and craftsman who built the spectacular 16th century temples, forts, and palaces that can be found throughout India.

In Agra, I visited the Taj Mahal. The facade of the Taj Mahal is inlaid marble, crafted by thousands of artisans almost 500 years ago. Its beauty is striking, even by modern standards. Later in the day, I spoke with a man who told me about the descendants of the artisans who worked on the Taj Mahal. In 2015, those descendants continue to work with marble inlay, by hand, using ancient tools and methods. Semi-precious stones 1 mm thick are inlaid into Makrana marble. The process is painfully slow and difficult. But a beautiful end product does result.

I wondered aloud why the stone inlay patterns weren't created on a CAD system, translated to a dxf file, ported to a water jet cutter, and cut accurately in 1/100 the time. The man looked puzzled.

"What would the families of the stone cutters do?" he asked. "This is what their great grandfathers and grandfathers did, what their fathers taught them, what they do today, and what their children learn as they assist their fathers."

In that instant, the labor substitution problem became very real.

The man went on, "We are a country [India] of 1.2 billion people—1.2 billion! People have to work. Better that they do things the old ways and have the work to do. Without work, bad things will begin to happen."

As technologists, we look to improve things through automation. In a country like India (or the USA, for that matter) some improvements might best be left alone.

People have to work.

Saturday, December 19, 2015


I'm in India this week—part business and part pleasure.

The business part occurred in New Delhi, a a city of 25 million people (!!) with commensurate traffic and crowding. It's a cliche to state the New Delhi mixes the 21st century with an older time—modern (but relatively small) office buildings in the sprawling technology sector (where I worked) with the "old city" that is very 18th century. In the old city, you encounter narrow, twisted streets, thousands of tiny commercial stalls selling everything from spices to prayer beads to mobile phones, and far too many stray dogs (and a few stray cows), far too much garbage, and more than a few beggars, juxtaposed against vibrant color, thousands of honking motor bikes, and urban electric system that is ... well ... 'home brew' with millions of random wires handing from tall poles and buildings (with an occasional monkey doing the work of a utility lineman). It is difficult to describe adequately.

New Delhi is an object lesson for those who advocate better care of the environment. Pollution is serious—very serious—with a smog layer that blots out the sun in the early morning and creates a noticable level of harshness in the air. India realizes that something must be done, but the Paris climate change conference is thought of as a joke (it is, despite what the Obama White House tells us). India is beginning to take active and pragmatic measures (that have nothing whatsoever to do with Paris) to address the issue.

The young people working in IT are a credit to both the education system in India and to the enthusiasm of the young. Enthusiastic, dedicated and smart. Did you know that there is generally no vacation time (except for national holidays) in many companies in India? Probably because there are millions upon millions of educated job seekers who really must compete for the best jobs.

Touring began in the ancient city of Varanasi, the spiritual center of the country and of Hinduism. The city of 3 million, Varanasi is the old city of Delhi on steroids. Visited by millions of the Hindu faithful, it is the place for ritual bathing in the Ganges river and visits to one of 25,000 (!!) Hindu temples. Traffic on its narrow streets is indescribable mainly because there are hundreds of thousand of vehicles, almost no traffic lights or stop signs,  and a demolition derby feel to it all (but without the crashes).

In fact, it's the traffic in Varanasi that caught my attention. Somehow Veranasi's drivers have developed a self-organizing system of managed chaos. Drivers use the horns as sonar, communicating every few seconds with other cars, motor bikes, auto-rickshaws, rickshaw,  pedestrians and thousands of cows. They miss each other when coming into a roundabout or intersection by inches (literally) yet somehow know when to yield, when to bull through, and when to be careful (rarely!). It works and I'm not sure why.

On many streets, cows (which are sacred in India and cannot be harmed) become the the center dividers, lying along the centerline of a road. The reason is that the passing cars swirl the air and keep flies away from the cows. Looks like the bovines have self-organized as well.

Varanasi is dirty, old, and absolutely fascinating. It is an example of the benefits of small government while at the same time illuminating the problems of government that is too small.

I'll try to report on my travels again next week.

A few pictures might be worthwhile:

The Old City in Delhi:

A monkey "lineman" in the old city:

Varanasi from the Gange's River:

Sunrise (0630 hours) over the Gange's in Varanasi (truly beautiful and peaceful):

Monday, December 14, 2015

Meming on Memes

My goodness! The memes just keep coming. Over the past few days, I've outlined the many memes floated by the Left as it scrambles to take the public's attention off radical Islamic terror. Their memes aren't working, so now the Leftist memesters are meming on memes.

In a variation of the "motives don't matter" and "fear" memes, Paul Waldman at the Washington Post and Steven Walt at Foreign Policy tut-tut over the "irrational fear" that they claim has gripped the American public. A quote from Waldman (h/t: James Taranto of the WSJ blog) is representative:

We’re afraid that terrorists will kill people. Okay, so how many people? According to the New America Foundation, since 9/11 there have been 45 Americans killed in jihadist terrorist attacks, and 48 Americans killed in right-wing terrorist attacks. Let’s put aside for the moment the fact that even though these two numbers are comparable, we don’t treat right-wing terrorism as something that requires any kind of policy response or even sustained attention. But you can’t argue that jihadi terrorism is something to be concerned about and afraid of because of the damage it’s been doing. An average of about three people killed per year in a country of 320 million is next to nothing.
The core of their argument is that the likelihood of being killed in a terrorist attack is vanishingly small, and therefore, there's no need to expend as much energy as we have on radical islamic terror. Obviously, as leftists, they try to conflate "right wing terror" with terror inspired by radical islam, suggesting that our collective lack of concern for the former should be replicated with a lack of concern for the latter.

Apparently, they reject the notion that a radical Islamic ideology that espouses world domination just might ratchet up the number of attacks and the body count or that a barbaric death cult just might use WMDs against civilian targets in the West. They refuse to listen to the words of Islamist leaders who openly state that "death to America" is their goal.

I have in past posts done a reasonably good job (I think) of demolishing the "motives" meme. To repeat:
The fact that many on the Left have adopted this new meme is telling. In essence, they want us to believe that there is no difference between a mass murder perpetrated by a psychotic individual at an elementary school or a movie theater and a mass murder perpetrated by one of many adherents to a twisted interpretation of a global religion. As awful as the Sandy Hook or Planned Parenthood mass murders were, they are not part of a larger, coordinated effort to terrorize a country.

As reprehensible as the slaughter of innocents at a summer camp might be (an event that happened in Norway), it was not part of a declared war on the Western values, freedoms and culture. Acts of radical Islamic terror are acts of war perpetrated by members of or sympathizers with Islamist groups. They may be conducted by deranged or psychotic Muslims, but they are NOT is any way analogous to random mass murders events. To suggest otherwise is not only intellectually dishonest, but dangerously naive (or knowingly cynical).

Motives. Do. Matter.

And when the motive is terror in the name of Islam, it is reasonable to call it such. It is the duty of national leaders in the West to make a clear distinction between an act of war perpetrated by a global group of Islamic fanatics and a one-off act of murder committed by a a deranged psychopath. There was no intent by the psychopaths at Sandy Hook or Planned Parenthood to destroy the West and subjugate its citizens to a totalitarian religious doctrine. That was exactly the intent in New York, London, Madrid, Mumbai, Ft. Hood, to name only a few, and now San Bernadino.
In a way, Waldman and Walt's convoluted arguments are much like those of the Nazi apologists of the mid- and late-1930s. In that era, many elites suggested that the Nazi threat was small, that their aggression was "contained" and manageable, and that their ideology would implode on its own. They counseled restraint and argued that negotiation was the proper path.

The elites were catastrophically wrong in the late 1930s and as a consequence, 60 million people died. People like Waldman and Walt are just as wrong 75 years later.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

What They Want

Americans are becoming more and more concerned about the feckless approach to radical Islamic terror offered by the Obama White House and foreshadowed by Hillary Clinton's refusal to even name the enemy. As a consequence, Leftist elites have gone into overdrive in an attempt to maintain control of their narrative that (1) Islam is "a religion of peace," (2) that "gun violence" is at the core of these problems and that gun control should dominate the conversation, (3) that Obama's catastrophic mistakes in the Middle East have not been a contributing factor to the growth of radical Islamic terror, and (4) that any attempt to control immigration from countries that harbor significant numbers of radical Islamic terrorists is bigoted and "racist."

As their control begins to slip away, the Leftist elites have become "memesters." Over the past few weeks they have floated memes (through their many supporters in the media) that I have called the motives meme, the gun control meme, and the anti-anti-Muslim immigration meme, the fear meme, and now, the "only we know what they want" meme

On this Sunday's news shows, a parade of "experts" on ISIS and the middle east breathlessly suggested that any attempt to name the enemy, declare war on ISIS, act on the declaration and fight ISIS on the ground, or suggest that possibly Islam itself is at least partially responsible for the rise of radical Islamic error, "plays directly into the hands of ISIS."

"After all," they claim, "those moves are exactly what ISIS wants."

Let me try a somewhat less nuanced explanation of what ISIS and other radical Islamists want—(1) they want to establish a global caliphate driven by Sharia law, (2) they want to force every infidel (Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddist ... the list is very long) to convert to Islam and abide by Sharia; (3) they want to subjugate or kill any infidel who refuses; (4) they was to subjugate or kill any Moslem apostate who refuses; (5) they want to dismantle democratic freedoms (of governance, of expression, of gender, of sexuality) and replace them with a ruthlessly rigid system of restrictions. They want their totalitarian ideology to dominate the world. That's what they want, and it appears that the Leftist elites in the USA are more than happy to follow the lead of the leftist elites in Europe and allow Islamists to travel down that road until it is too late to stop them.

But who are we to question the elites—after all, they "know." Interesting that what ISIS wants is remarkably coincident with what the elites want—no military intervention, the imposition of insane PC restrictions when considering policy relative to Islamic immigrants, horror at any mention of the culpability that Islam may have some role in all of this.

On one Sunday morning show, the author of a book on ISIS put on his serious face and intoned [paraphrasing from memory]: "the last thing we want to do through our actions is to force Muslims to make a choice between the West and the Islamists." The news moderator smiled at this sage wisdom and nodded his head.

What abject nonsense! Why is it a bad thing to force Muslims to make a choice? Those who choose western freedoms will become allies that can work with us to eradicate radical Islamic terror. And those who choose ISIS? At least we know where they stand, and we have a better handle on the size of the threat.

Like many things that Leftists believe, they don't see the irony in their many memes. In the case of the "only we know what they want" meme, Leftists demonstrate their latent fear that every Muslim is on a knife edge, and that if the West does anything at all that is aggressive, un-PC, or otherwise provocative, we will drive all Muslims into the waiting arms of Islamists. That's soft bigotry—something that is common among the elites.

It appears that those of us who suggest a harder line have far more faith in Islam than the elites. In my view, the majority of Muslims will reject Islamic barbarism, totalitarianism, and aggressive anti-Western propaganda and join us in the fight. But only if we show we're in the fight to win it.

And for those Muslims who migrate to the dark side? That simply broadens an already target rich environment.

Saturday, December 12, 2015


Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and their supporters on the Left have come up with still another meme in an effort to control the conversation about Islam and terror. They have created what I'll call the "fear meme"—those who express concern for uncontrolled Muslim immigration and/or future attacks by radical Islamic terror groups have given in to irrational "fear."

Like their earlier memes—the motives meme, the gun control meme, and the anti-anti-Muslim immigration meme—the fear meme represents a combination of cynicism, dishonesty, and a rejection of objective reality. But no matter. The memesters are hard at work changing the subject.

The Left also gives in to fear—but only of things that threaten their narrative and the memes that are precipitated by it. They fear broad-based public knowledge of recent polls indicating that substantial percentages—averaging between 20 and 25 percent—of the Muslim world, including Muslims throughout the Middle East, Europe and Asia—express support for Islamist thought and Islamist terror groups. By the way, 20 - 25 percent of 1.3 billion people is a very big number?

But the Left is also afraid that their moral posturing is completely out of step with what most Americans are thinking (of course, that does make them feel morally special, and that is something that's very important in their fantasy world view). According to New York Times/CBS News poll, 7 in 10 Americans perceive radical Islamic terror as a major threat to national security and according to Gallup polling, 67 percent believe further attacks in the homeland are likely in the relative near term and Barack Obama's approval rating has tanked.

Noah Rothman comments:
Regarding the potential political ramifications of this negative development for the president, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked today about Gallup’s numbers. Earnest’s tart reply: “Gallup predicted Mitt Romney would be president.”

There is no worthy response to this non sequitur; it was not designed to elicit one. The strategy here is clear, and it is one that this president has used to great effect in the past: Project to like minds in media that concerns over terrorism are a preoccupation of the intellectually sequestered right. To lend any credence to that notion would be to align yourself with that brutish, unthinking element in flyover country, and you wouldn’t want to be thought of by your peers in that way, would you?
Earnest's comment is oh so typical of the arrogance that emanates almost daily from the Obama White House. But when you think you're the smartest guys in the room and are continually proven you're not, I suppose arrogance is all you have left.

But back to the fear meme. Rothman suggests that its all part of a broader attempt at social pressure:
Americans who have the temerity to notice the heightened terrorist threat that Barack Obama’s own FBI director warned about are not wrong, and they don’t deserve to be shamed for it. Those like Earnest and Phillips [a Washington Post reporter who invoked a variety of Leftist memes to castigate Representative Loretta Sanchez, a Democratic candidate for Senate in California for suggesting that maybe there might be more than just a few Muslims who are supportive of radical Islamic terror groups] are not performing a public service. They’re signaling to liberal partisans that they have a social duty to act and behave in a particular fashion lest they invite the scorn of their enlightened peers. It’s a crude strategy that might pay off in the near-term, but that kind of social intimidation only reveals how ill-prepared the left is to truly address the terrorist threat.
But wait. The left doesn't really want to "address" the terrorist threat. They'd much rather change the subject, advance ever more strident memes, and hope that the whole problem will go away when "oppression" is ended and guns are abolished. Only then will al Qaeda, ISIS, al Nusra, Hamas, Hezballah and the hundreds of millions of their Muslim sympathizers sit down with Barack, Bernie, John Kerry, and Hillary—and sing Kumbayah.

Thursday, December 10, 2015


In yesterday's post, I discussed Donald Trump's latest controversial comment—suggesting that all Muslim immigration be stopped until government officials know how to handle it. I also discussed political Islam and why it is antithetical to our constitution, our culture, and our values.

When those on the Left wonder why so many people seem okay with Trump's rhetoric, they really need look no further than their leaders. Barack Obama, along with his ideological stepchildren, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, flat out refuse to identify the enemy. That makes people who are not as 'intelligent, nuanced, and sophisticated' as those sitting on high moral perch that Leftist's occupy very uneasy. After all, deep down most of us know exactly who the enemy is. Refusing to name it causes people to lose faith in their leaders and follow a demagogue like Trump.

Richard Fernandez (as he almost always does) gets to the heart of the situation when he writes:
Starting from the premise that "we are most certainly at war with militant Islam" it follows that anyone who pledges loyalty, belief or allegiance to a branch of Islam that substantially and materially fits that description should be considered hostile or at least suspicious. One of the San Bernadino shooters attended and subscribed to the "Al Huda" school, notorious even in Pakistan. Various other branches of Islam, variously described as Wahabi or Salafist, etc are similarly ill reputed and are well known to the intelligence agencies.

Government's job is to define or create a process to identify the enemies of the United States. That is the power to make war. That is the first duty and responsibility of democratically elected officials. The next is to make it clear that anyone who adheres to these varieties of Islam shall be treated as having pledged allegiance to the enemies of the United States. Citizens who convert to these beliefs or manifestly espouse such hostile creeds may be deemed to have renounced their citizenship. On the other hand, Muslims who belong belief systems compatible with the Constitution should not be considered hostile and should be encouraged to struggle by peaceful or forceful means against these hostile sects.

The problem with Trump's program is that it cannot be carried out unless the state fulfills its basic duty to identify the enemies of the United States, which the administration seems reluctant to do. Otherwise who should be excluded? We should come out and name names. And we can. The problem isn't that identification is too difficult, but that it is excessively inconvenient. Too many Saudi, Gulf and Pakistani toes will be trod on, not to mention the president's buddies in Iran.

Everything begins with identification. Once the identity of the enemy is known, then the debate can begin over the proper, proportionate and just ways that should be adopted to combat them. The Western elites want a muddle. Just now the New York Times has a story about Mickey Hicks, aged 8, who is on the no-fly-list and can't get off it. What happens when you can't identify the enemy is everyone becomes the enemy, which suits some people just fine. They don't care about the peaceful Muslim -- and they do exist in large, perhaps overwhelming large numbers. They care about not antagonizing the violent sector among them for the tawdriest of considerations.
Barack Obama and his Team of 2s, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and virtually all of the progressive Left flat out refuse to use the words "radical Islamic terror"—no adjectives are allowed, no identifiers are offered, just broad abstractions like "violent extremism."

Because identification is disallowed in the PC world of the left, we get comments like Trump's. If we can't identify which Muslims are to blame for terrorism, then we have to lump all Muslims into one basket. If we can't act against an identified subset, then people will begin to think about acting against the entire set. That's what Obama and company have created.

But for the Left, it's a strategy that works, because it shuts down debate, makes any attempt at "proper, proportionate and just" ways to respond all but impossible. It is, in some ways, an unknowing (I hope) effort to comfort the enemy. It just might get a lot of the wrong people killed.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

No Mere Religion

Regular readers in this space know that I am no fan of Donald Trump. As a politician, Trump is a bombastic, hubristic bully who has superficial knowledge of important wedge issues but offers no meaningful policy prescriptions to address them. When pressed for detail, Trump is one question deep, blathering on about how in his magnificence he will cow China on trade, or get Mexico to build a wall, or defeat radical Islam. He provide little indication that he has a deep understanding of any of those issues. Yet, low information republicans and not a few democrats (the "trumpkins") seem to like what he says.

Like many of his media-driven controversies, Trump's latest suggestion that we ban all Muslim immigration until we better understanding of how to vet the immigrants for terror ties or sympathies has caused a uproar. Republicans condemned the idea immediately, suggesting that it is overreach. Democrats got the vapors, using it as yet another opportunity to demogogue the issue and paint all GOP candidates (who had just rejected Trump's idea) with a Trump brush.

It might be worth taking a deep breath, stepping back from hyperventilation, and considering the core issue—immigration from predominantly Muslim countries (e.g., Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq) with heavy levels of sympathy (based on reliable polling) for Islamist thought.

Andrew McCarthy comments on the underlying problem:
Some Muslims come to the United States to practice their religion peacefully, and assimilate into the Western tradition of tolerance of other people’s liberties, including religious liberty — a tradition alien to the theocratic societies in which they grew up. Others come here to champion sharia, Islam’s authoritarian societal framework and legal code, resisting assimilation into our pluralistic society.

Since we want to both honor religious liberty and preserve the Constitution that enshrines and protects it, we have a dilemma.

The assumption that is central to this dilemma — the one that Trump has stumbled on and that Washington refuses to examine — is that Islam is merely a religion. If that’s true, then it is likely that religious liberty will trump constitutional and national-security concerns. How, after all, can a mere religion be a threat to a constitutional system dedicated to religious liberty?

But Islam is no mere religion.
One often hears the phrase "political Islam" when there is an attempt to make a distinction between the religious elements of Islam and its other pivotal elements. But the religious elements cannot be easily extracted from an "ideological system that governs all human affairs, from political, economic, and military matters to interpersonal relations and even hygiene." (McCarthy) To be a good Muslim, the entire system must be adopted. The only question is one of emphasis—does a Muslim person take the dictates that lead to Sharia Law literally, or is moderation applied?

McCarthy continues:
Our constitutional principle of religious liberty is derived from the Western concept that the spiritual realm should be separate from civic and political life. The concept flows from the New Testament injunction to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.

Crucially, the interpretation of Islam that is mainstream in most Muslim-majority countries does not accept a division between mosque and state. In fact, to invoke “mosque” as the equivalent of “church” in referring to a division between spiritual and political life is itself a misleading projection of Western principles onto Islamic society. A mosque is not merely a house of worship. It does not separate politics from religion any more than Islam as a whole does. There is a reason why many of the fiery political protests that turn riotous in the Middle East occur on Fridays — the Muslim Sabbath, on which people pour out of the mosques with ears still burning from the imam’s sermon.

The lack of separation between spiritual and civic life is not the only problem with Islam. Sharia is counter-constitutional in its most basic elements — beginning with the elementary belief that people do not have a right to govern themselves freely. Islam, instead, requires adherence to sharia and rejection of all law that contradicts it. So we start with fundamental incompatibility, before we ever get to other aspects of sharia: its systematic discrimination against non-Muslims and women; its denial of religious liberty, free speech, economic freedom, privacy rights, due process, and protection from cruel and unusual punishments; and its endorsement of violent jihad in furtherance of protecting and expanding the territory it governs.
I honestly believe that Donald Trump doesn't have the intellect or the interest to understand these subtle but very important issues. But at some level, his latest controversy could be used as a catalyst for an important discussion about the nature of Islam and whether there might be reasons to carefully vet any Muslim that arrives at our borders from countries with broad support for "political Islam" (a.k.a. Sharia law).

The pull between Islam as a religion and Islam as an ideology continue in the Muslim world, and it may never be adequately resolved. Islam as an ideology is inherently antithetical to our constitutional democracy.

McCarthy addresses this when he writes:
For [some] Muslims, Islam is, in effect, merely a religion, and as such it deserves our Constitution’s protections.

For other Muslims, however, Islam is a political program with a religious veneer. It does not merit the liberty protections our law accords to religion. It undermines our Constitution and threatens our security. Its anti-assimilationist dictates create a breeding ground for violent jihad.

If we continue mindlessly treating Islam as if it were merely a religion, if we continue ignoring the salient differences between constitutional and sharia principles — thoughtlessly assuming these antithetical systems are compatible — we will never have a sensible immigration policy.
Advocating open Muslim immigration is a form of mindless moral preening that refuses to examine the potential threat of political Islam. If we don't establish some mechanism for dealing with immigrants who support political Islam, the threat of terror will be only a small subset of the long-term threats we may face.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015


The last week's events have highlighted the imminent threat posed by radical Islamic terror, yet it seems that many on the Left would much prefer to look elsewhere for more benign threats that face the West. The Left creates memes that emphasize real, but minor threats in an effort to direct the conversation away from a reality that troubles them. And any reality that connects Islam to terror  is a reality that appears to trouble them.

So they try to avoid facing a troubling reality by forcing the conversation to turn toward minor threats—gun control or global warming or anti-Islamic bias. In fact, many on the Left become animated and emotional when these real, but minor threats are raised.  How can the general public be so blind, they ask, and not see that these "threats" are where our attention should be focused.

So ... from Barack Obama on down, the Left creates memes that misdirect. In his White House address, this president spent almost as much time warning us not to give in to anti-Islamic bias as he did considering a real and immediate threat to our nation—radical Islamic terror.

It's almost as if the president's most pressing concern is to ensure that no one think ill of a religion that has been hijacked by those who want to destroy Western culture, murder or subjugate those who practice other religions, and establish Sharia law—the most politically incorrect body of law in modern history. If it wasn't so serious, one would think that Barack Obama was a comic figure and that his actions were a parody of what not to do as a leader.

But back to memes that misdirect. I have, over the past week, highlighted the motives meme  and the gun control meme that both emphasize political correctness as their guiding imperative. Today, following Obama's lead, the "anti-anti-Islamic bias meme" is being promoted by members of Obama's Team of 2s.

Bridget Johnson
reports on the administration's promotion of this latest meme:
In a Monday visit to a Northern Virginia mosque, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson declared "anyone who does not understand" that Muslims want peace "does not understand Islam."

Johnson dropped in on at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling, Va., the day after President Obama said Americans have a responsibility to respect their Muslim neighbors.

Johnson said the "new phase" of the terror war -- with "terrorist-directed and terrorist-inspired attacks" -- requires "a whole new approach to counterterrorism and homeland security," including Muslim outreach as he's done over the past couple of years.

One of the "most meaningful discussions" on his "tour," he called it, was in June with the ADAMS Center imam, which began with a Boy Scout Troop leading meeting participants in the Pledge of Allegiance. That imam, Mohamed Magid, is a past president of the Islamic Society of North America, an organization linked to the Holy Land Foundation in its terror-financing trial and to the Muslim Brotherhood.

"In responding to this new environment, we must not vilify American Muslims. We must not throw a net of suspicion over American Muslims and an entire religion. We must not force American Muslims to run and hide, and retreat to the shadows," Johnson said. "This would be counter to our homeland security efforts, and it is un-American. Now, more than ever, is the time to work together, to protect and defend our communities, our families, and our homeland."

"...The overwhelming, overwhelming majority of American Muslims, and Muslims worldwide, are men, women and children of peace, who seek to live their lives in peace, and want nothing to do with terrorism. Anyone who does not understand this does not understand Islam. The very essence of the Islamic faith is peace. The standard greeting As-salamu alaykum is 'peace be upon you.'"
Okay, now consider for just a moment what Jeh Johnson's job is—he directs America's homeland security efforts. You'd think he would be more concerned about new techniques for vetting people crossing our borders, for better intelligence methods that might uncover radical Islamic terrorists hiding within the Muslim community; with improved "outreach" that convinces "peace loving" Muslims to self-report incidents of radicalization and suspicions of terror-sympathizers in their midst. But no. John is promoting the "anti-anti-Islamic bias meme." As did Obama's Attorney general, Loretta Lynch, a few days ago. That Team of 2s—what a group of memesters!


After presenting heavily referenced data that describes the extent of Islamist thought and sympathies in the global islamic population, David French writes this:
Simply put, America’s leaders actively deceive the American people about the sheer scale of Muslim hatred and commitment to jihad. Rather than tell us the truth, the Obama administration and the media aristocracy constantly lecture Americans about discrimination, apparently believing that only their scolding keeps the great redneck masses at bay.

Telling us the truth won’t send Americans on an anti-Muslim killing spree. Instead, it will make us no more radical than Egypt’s president, who briefly made headlines earlier this year after calling for a “revolution” in Islam and decrying faith traditions that he admitted had been “sacralized over the centuries.” Telling the truth can demonstrate the scale of the problem and at least begin the process of convincing the American people that there is no quick fix, that the defense of the nation will require courage and resolve over the long term.

Islam has a problem. It is Muslims’ responsibility to reform their own faith. It is America’s responsibility to defend itself and its citizens. Neither goal is advanced by telling convenient, politically correct lies. After 14 years of war, can we finally tell the truth?
Nah, that wouldn't be in the memester's best interest.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Motives Do Matter

Barack Obama will address the nation tonight on the terror attack in San Bernadino. It will be interesting to see if he identifies the attackers as radical Islamic terrorists. My bet is he won't. In fact, over the past few days, Obama's supporters on the Left (including his trained hamsters at dozens of media outlets) are experimenting with a new meme in an increasingly desperate attempt to redirect the public's concern away from Islam.

The new meme is that motives don't matter. This from The New York Times:
“A Muslim extremist? A disgruntled worker? A Christian fanatic? A racist? A misogynist? With each mass shooting, Americans struggle to fathom what motivated the killer,” the Times wrote in an accompanying online “discussion.” “But does it matter whether someone is killed by a Muslim extremist or someone with a less dramatic reason to pull the trigger?”
The fact that many on the Left have adopted this new meme is telling. In essence, they want us to believe that there is no difference between a mass murder perpetrated by a psychotic individual at an elementary school or a movie theater and a mass murder perpetrated by one of many adherents to a twisted interpretation of a global religion. As awful as the Sandy Hook or Planned Parenthood mass murders were, they are not part of a larger, coordinated effort to terrorize a country. As reprehensible as the slaughter of innocents at a summer camp might be (an event that happened in Norway), it was not part of a declared war on the Western values, freedoms and culture.

Acts of radical Islamic terror are acts of war perpetrated by members of or sympathizers with Islamist groups. They may be conducted by deranged or psychotic Muslims, but they are NOT is any way analogous to random mass murders events. To suggest otherwise is not only intellectually dishonest, but dangerously naive (or knowingly cynical).

Motives. Do. Matter.

And when the motive is terror in the name of Islam, it is reasonable to call it such. It is the duty of national leaders in the West to make a clear distinction between an act of war perpetrated by a global group of Islamic fanatics and a one-off act of murder committed by a a deranged psychopath. There was no intent by the psychopaths at Sandy Hook or Planned Parenthood to destroy the West and subjugate its citizens to a totalitarian religious doctrine. That was exactly the intent in New York, London, Madrid, Mumbai, Ft. Hood, to name only a few, and now San Bernadino.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Say Nothing

At yesterday's daily press briefing in the White House, the following exchange occurred between Peter Doocy of FoxNews and Josh Earnest, Barack Obama's press secretary:

Peter Doocy: "President Obama yesterday jumped to say that this mass shooting means it's time for commonsense gun laws. Does the President really think that common sense gun laws would deter terrorists now that he has admitted that these two may have been terrorists?"

White House press secretary Josh Earnest: "Yes. The president believes that passing common sense gun laws that makes it harder for people with bad intentions to get guns, makes the country safer."

Peter Doocy: "But so the president thinks that when there are potentially two terrorists sitting around planning a mass murder they may call it off because President Obama has put in place common sense gun laws?"
Earnest's response is one of a number of reasons why the American people are uneasy—and virtually every commentator and news source reports a level of unease. The administration's response is insulting, delusional, condescending, and worst of all, completely ineffective in addressing the serious threats we all face. The Obama administration is trying desperately to avoid confronting a war that has been declared against us by radical Islam. Clinging to the hope that "work place violence" is the underlying cause of the San Bernadino event, this president and his Team of 2s appear to be looking for anything to change the subject—if it's lobbying for "common sense gun laws"—all the better.

But it gets worse. In the administration's effort to avoid anything that might connect Islam to the threats that we face, they have created, along with their trained hamsters in the media, an atmosphere in which political correctness trumps "common sense" (to use a phrase Obama spokespeople are fond of lately).

A neighbor of the San Bernadino terrorists observed a number of suspicious goings-on in the weeks and months that preceded the attacks. She was concerned, but admitted that she was afraid of being accused of "profiling." So ... she said nothing. The neighbor's response is completely understandable—after all, the Obama administration and their friends at CAIR (a group that has visited the White House for "consultations" many times) emphasize that any suspicion of any Muslim, regardless of the circumstances, is "Islamophobia." The meme has been repeated so many times that it is now ingrained into the consciousness of far too many Americans.

Federal authorities tell us: "If you see something, say something." Unless what you see involves someone who might be a Muslim or might be happening at, say, a Mosque, or might be part of a group that might be Muslim and might have nafarious intent. Then, say nothing.

It appears that on the subject of the nexus of Islam and terrorism, Hillary Clinton is Obama 2.0. Just last week she stated: "Let's be clear: Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism."

Nothing whatsoever? Really? Nothing? 

For some reason, leaders of the Democratic party have a unique ability to live inside their own fantasy construct. Both Obama and Clinton believe that if one states something outrageously fantastical, something with absolutely no connection to reality, but does so with conviction and a pinch of moral superiority, then they will be believed. Add in a complicit media, and it's a slam dunk.

Except when it isn't. When fantasy collides with reality, reality will win in the end. With every passing hour, we learn more and more about the Islamic connection in the San Bernadino terror attack. And as this drip, drip of reality continues, "nothing" becomes "something."

Mona Charen addresses this reality when she writes:
... there is a fever sweeping the Muslim world that has infected a significant minority of Muslims -- and because Muslims are so numerous, that minority amounts to hundreds of millions. It began in the 1920s with the Muslim Brotherhood. Its Shia incarnation has captured the government of Iran. Saudi oil money has facilitated its spread to places such as Pakistan and Afghanistan. President Obama, deluded from the get-go that our enemy was not Islamic extremism but merely "al-Qaida," stood by while the Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria morphed into a new entity called ISIS. Obama never saw it coming because he was determined to believe, with Clinton and other Democrats, that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam.

Isn't it odd, then, that in Nigeria (70 percent Muslim) and Lebanon (54 percent Muslim) large majorities say they are "very worried" about Islamic extremism in their countries? The presence of Boko Haram in Nigeria and Hezbollah in Lebanon has a way of concentrating the mind. People around the world are worried about Islamic radicalism, too. Perhaps they are mindful of 9/11, the Fort Hood shooting (2009), the Boston Marathon bombing (2013), the bombings of trains in Madrid (2004), the three-day siege of hotels and a Jewish center in Mumbai (2008), the bombings of a bus and trains in London (2005), the attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse (2012), the slaughter of students at a Kenya university (2015), the attack on high schoolers in Peshawar, Pakistan (2014), the shootings at a Mali hotel (2015), the stabbings in Israel (2015), the Bali bombings (2002), the Jakarta bombing (2009) and so very many more, to say nothing of the treatment of religious minorities, homosexuals, and women in many Muslim societies.

As for whether Muslims are tolerant, there's no doubt that some are, but as a 2013 Pew survey of global attitudes found, 88 percent of Egyptian and 62 percent of Pakistani Muslims favor the death penalty for apostates. "This is also the majority view among Muslims in Malaysia, Jordan and the Palestinian territories," reported the Washington Post after reviewing the data.
Eradicating the canard that Islam has "nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism" is the very first small step in eradicating radical Islamic terrorism. And the first step in eradicating the canard is being absolutely sure that politicians who repeat it are never again elected to high office.


Richard Fernandez laments the descent of many Democrats into fantasy (Islam has "nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism") and writes:
How can anything survive on it? Fantasy is treacherous ground. Facts -- also known as the Truth or the Light -- have an inconvenient way of burning through the darkness. Anyone who walks upon a road of lies will sink into it ...

There is a light in the darkness and the darkness overcame it not. A long road ... but for anyone who begins the journey now, it is always x years minus one.
Every time someone like Obama or Clinton promotes a fantasy, the darkness grows more ominous. Every time someone forces the populace to confront reality, the darkness recedes.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

An Army

Less than 24 hours after the mass murder of 14 people and the wounding of another 17 by a Muslim couple in San Bernadino, CA, the left has already begun in their attempt to shape the narrative. All three Democrat presidential candidates tweeted their abhorence to "gun violence" but neither Hillary Clinton, nor Bernie Sanders, nor Martin O'Mally deigned to use the work "terrorism," much less apply the adjective "Islamic" to it. Others left-leaning commentators worked hard to instantiate the notion that this atrocity as "work place violence." Few uttered the names of the terrorists, hoping, I think, that if they omitted the Arabic sounding names, any connection to Islam would be erased.

CAIR reacted with lightening speed, trying hard to manage a public relations nightmare for their adherents.

Government spokespeople tiptoed through a mine field of politically correct euphemisms—worried that a simple statement of fact would somehow "offend" the Muslim community in the United States.

On the GOP side, every candidate tweeted they're prayers for the victims—a decent sentiment, but prayers alone are not nearly enough. In fact, a call to religion to combat religiously inspired terror is itself inappropriately ironic.

We are in a war, and each time the war comes home, the left-wing "deniers" come out in full force to tell us that the underlying problem is "gun violence," or "grievances" from some far off land, or "poverty", or American imperialism, or climate change! It is none of those things.

The war is driven by a warped interpretation of Islam, held not by a small number of Muslims, but possibly a number as high as 300 million sympathizers. If only 1 percent of that number is ultimately radicalized and becomes a soldier in the war, we'll be up against a 3 million man army, worldwide.

Only Islam can truly defeat the Islamist army. It's long past the time that we stop worrying about political correctness, or "gun violence," or the idiotic notion that climate change is to blame, or the worry that we might "offend" the Muslim community. Western leaders must ask Islam bluntly and forcefully to eradicate the Islamists, to reform their religion to preclude the reemergence of Islamist thought, and to work with us for a world that does not include totalitarian Islam. If the leaders of Islam refuse and do nothing, then at least we'll better understand the challenge we face.


In his typical hard-hitting response when Islamic terror occurs, here's what Barack Obama said this morning (from the Washington Post):
“At this stage, we do not yet know why this terrible event occurred,” Obama said during remarks at the White House. He added: “It is possible this was terrorist-related, but we don’t know. It is also possible this was workplace related.”
Yeah ... "workplace violence," and the reason they did it—a complete mystery to be sure.

And this from our Attorney General:
“Whatever the results of this investigation…one thing is clear: Violence like this has no place in this country,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said at a White House event earlier on Thursday.
"Violence like this" —What a wonderful euphemism that allows our chief law enforcement officer to avoid labeling that might be offensive.

Looks like the Team of 2s has created an operative word substitution where "terrorism" which is judgement and offense is replaced by "violence" which offends only those who have been murdered because of it. What a pathetic joke!

Where's the anger? Where's the resolve? Where's the leadership? With "leaders" like this ... we're in very big trouble.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

A Seven Year Assessment

Now that we approach the last year of the Obama era, it's reasonable to assess the results of this presidency. Sure, Barack Obama still has slightly over a year to serve, but his record is now well-established, and an evaluation his presidency over the past seven years might be worthwhile.

In fairness, domestic and international events overtake every president. It's the president who gets the credit when events go well, even if he had relatively little to do with the end result. In addition, it's the president who takes the blame when things go south, even if events are largely beyond his control. Given this reality, it's far more important to look at how executive decisions shaped events and/or how action or inaction responded to those events. When the president's fingerprints are on an event (via decisions, policies, appointments, or even rhetoric) it's completely appropriate to assess the end result. And it's the result, not the rhetoric or the intention that matters.

In this 3,400 word post (apologies for its length), I'll assess the Obama administration's record on domestic and foreign policy—the legislation that was sponsored by this president, his decisions, policies, and appointments, and the rhetoric he often used to push his programs. I'll then provide an overall summary and assessment.

An Assessment of Domestic Policy

Over the past seven years we've watched as Barack Obama battled with the Congress but it's important to remember that during his first two years as president, Barack Obama had overwhelming Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate.

Although he had the congressional majority, he did not reform immigration nor did he implement "common sense" measures for gun control. With large Democrat majorities in both houses of Congress, he did not reform our tax system, did not address "income inequality," did not implement fixes for social security and medicare, did not pass climate change legislation, nor did he reform Wall Street. He repeatedly blamed GOP "obstructionists," but even though he had significant majorities in both houses of Congress, he accomplished relatively little in the legislative arena—with one exception.

His signature "achievement, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare), was passed without a single GOP vote (absolutely unprecedented for major legislation that affected tens of millions of citizens). Obamacare required unseemly political deals (recall the "Cornhusker kickback") to get even enough Democrat votes for passage. Once enacted, this president unilaterally decided to postpone certain unpleasant aspects of the law he championed, afraid that implementing those aspects would create public backlash and political ruin. Legislation that he promised would save money and reduce medical costs, did neither. Promises he made (the infamous, "you can keep your doctor ...") turned out to be lies.

As the voters responded to Obama's serial failures and gave congress strong GOP majorities in 2010. He did win re-election in 2012, but again in 2014, his party was beaten badly in congressional voting. In effect, Obama lived under the fantasy that the American public had not rejected his governance and his party in 2014 and continued using the word "obstructionist" as an excuse for its inability to craft legislation and programs that would be acceptable to a bi-partisan majority.  The role of the president is to negotiate and compromise. That is clearly not part of Barack Obama's make-up.

Let's examine domestic policy over the past seven years. We'll explore legislation that was sponsored by this president, his decisions and policies, and the  rhetoric he often used to push his programs. Obama's domestic policy can is exemplified by:
Under Barack Obama, big intrusive government (BIG) has flourished. Some believe that is an achievement, and undoubtedly, the political class has been enriched by BIG's growth. Yet, the European model that BIG advocates want to emulate has demonstrated that BIG is unsustainable over the long term. It has resulting is tepid economic growth, intrusive actions by government agencies, and damage to the middle and lower classes that may very well be irreparable.

Democrat candidates for president in 2016 uniformly argue that the middle class is suffering, that income inequality is soaring, that not enough jobs have been created, that crony capitalists are benefiting. It's interesting that they seem incapable of laying any of this at the feet of a Democrat president who has run this government for seven full years.

An Assessment of Foreign Policy

Some presidents have struggled with domestic policy but have had significant achievements in the foreign policy realm. Barack Obama is not one of those presidents. Barack Obama's foreign policy is exemplified by:
  • A vague, inconsistent strategy that has been demonstrably ineffective and incoherent. The strategy, when one can be discerned, is often driven by what the Obama administration doesn't want to do (e.g., use ground troops in the Middle East) rather than what it wants to accomplish in a particular region of the world.
  • A president who is "unable to grasp" the inherent danger of Islamist groups around the world, insulting those who demand a more cogent assessment and withdrawing into a cocoon of 'belief' (ISIS is "contained") that has no basis in fact or reality.
  • The abandonment of long-time allies and the embrace of virulent enemies. Relations with long time Middle East allies (e.g., Israel and moderate Arab countries) have never been more strained while efforts to appease our adversaries (e.g., Iran) have jettisoned common sense and often conflict with the best interests of the United States.
  • Self-imposed red-lines that were crossed by adversaries with no response, resulting in Islamist barbarians who have been allowed to conduct their barbarity without significant intervention.
  • The failure of the Russian "reset" and the Asian "pivot" with escalating aggressiveness on the part of both Russia and China.
  • Increased tension with both China and Russia as each country acts in ways that challenges us and destabilizes regions of the world (e.g., the Ukraine, the South China sea).
  • The Russian annexation of the Crimea with no meaningful response form this president.
  • Sponsorship of an attack on and destabilization of Libya that ultimately led to Libya as a failed state and home for Islamic terrorists of all types.
  • The Russian-Iranian armed takeover of Syria with the explicit intent of controlling the country and projecting increasing influence in the Middle East. The entry of Cuban military into the mix.
  • Chaos in the Ukraine with no meaningful response from this president. 
  • A gun-running scandal, called "Fast and Furious," in which the Obama's Department of Justice facilitated the transport of automatic weapons to Mexican drug cartel members in a harebrained scheme to trace their usage. The weapons were used to murder many, including a U.S. border patrol agent. The Obama administration stonewalled the investigation.
  • A naive embrace of the "Arab Spring," followed by the advocacy of an overthrow of Egypt's Hosni Mubarek, to be replaced by  the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, a virulent Islamist group that Barack Obama characterized as "moderate."
  • Establishment of an Iranian nuclear "deal" that does not provide for meaningful verification but does provide the world's greatest sponsor of terror (Iran) with a clear path to a nuclear weapon and $150 billion to support its terror activities; a blunder that is so bad it may very well become an enabler for nuclear war.
  • Iran's blatant violations of Obama's "deal" (everything from banned travel to the launch of new medium range missiles) that began within 90 days of the deal's enactment. 
  • Tension with our Arab gulf allies over the Iran deal with the strong likelihood that the deal will precipitate a nuclear arms race in the most unstable region of the world.
  • The acquiescence to a failed state in Yemen after claiming the country was an example of Obama's success in dealing with Islamic terror.
  • The destabilization of Iraq caused by a half-hearted effort to achieve a status of forces agreement, thereby abandoning the country to Iran and Islamist terror groups.
  • The abandonment of Afghanistan to the Taliban.
  • The growth of Iran as a regional hegemon in the Middle East.
  • The spread of Islamism and related terror groups in North and Sub-Saharan Africa 
  • Tension with Egypt, because this president championed the virulently Islamist Muslim Brotherhood to control the country
  • The absolute refusal to name Islamists as the primary driver for worldwide terror. In fact, an absolute refusal to connect Islam and terror in any meaningful way.
  • A consistent attempt to minimize the strategic impact of acts of Islamic terror. Even some Democrats now suggest  that “at times he [Obama] was patronizing, at other times he seemed annoyed and almost dismissive” when asked about the subject.
  • A growing intelligence scandal (now under investigation) in which CIA and DIA reports on Islamic terrorism and ISIS were softened to make the threat look less severe, with a clear implication that such softening was done at the behest of political operatives within the administration.
  • The continuing and grossly dishonest effort to conflate "homegrown" extremist groups (e.g., neo-Nazis or the KKK) with worldwide Islamic terror groups like al Qaeda or ISIS.
  • The swap of a known army deserter, Bowe Bergdahl, for five imprisoned senior Taliban operatives while allowing four U.S nationals to be unjustly imprisoned in Iran with no tangible progress in getting them released, and no attempt to tie their release to the Iran nuclear deal.
  • The purposeful demonization of Israel, our only democratic ally in the Middle East, through subtle innuendo and even worse, borderline anti-Semitic rhetoric from Obama and his spokespeople. 
  • The continuing (albeit futile) coersion of Israel to acquiesce to a "two State solution" when one side (the palestinians) demands the destruction of the other (Israel).
  • The rise of the "JV team"—ISIS, and as a consequence, insight into this president's complete lack of understanding of the threat of Islamist groups in the region and outside it.
  • The utter lack of any effective strategy against the Islamic State (ISIS) including the tacit acquiescense to murder, beheadings, stoning, and other barbaric acts.
  • The minimization of the Islamic terrorist threat (e.g., ISIS is "contained" or al Qaeda is "on the run") followed almost immediately by terrorist acts (e.g., the Paris attacks or the Benghazi attacks) that belie such dishonest, politically motivated claims.
  • The greatest flow of Muslim "migrants" from war-torn Middle Eastern countries into the EU in history, occurring as a consequence of the instability in the Middle East (in no small part due to the poor decisions by this president). Elements in this migration may very well be a quiet strategy to seed Europe with even more Islamists who pose as immigrants.
It is true that some failures noted above would have happened even if Barack Obama were not president. But it is equally true that this president has made decisions that have exacerbated many of the events noted and/or has responded to each of these events weakly, ineffectively, or both. As a consequence of his feckless foreign policy overall, the United States projects weakness that opens the door to worrisome actions by Russia, China, Iran, radical Islamist groups, and other adversaries.

Overall Assessment

In the first two sections of this seven year assessment of Barack Obama's presidency, I discussed both domestic and foreign policy. Now it's time to provide a general assessment, taking it all into account.

Most competent people, even those without significant executive experience, learn on the job, adjusting their decisions and behavior going forward based on earlier results and an honest personal appraisal of their decisions and actions. Barack Obama came into office with little executive experience, and it appears, little inclination to learn on the job. He has spent almost 84 months as president, but from an experiential point of view, it appears that he has had one month of experience repeated 84 times.

Obama is a man whose ideology might be acceptable were he a run-of-the-mill activist or a college professor. But the President of the United States must sometimes set aside ideology to do what is in the best interests of the country he leads. Obama has refused to do so, and as a result, he has jettisoned pragmatism, abandoned any attempt to take counsel from or even consider the ideas of his political opposition, and pin-balled from failed policy to failed policy. He has surrounded himself with a Team of 2s, people of like-minded ideology who reinforce, rather than redirect the many, many bad decisions that have emanated from his office.

This administration and the man who leads it have done significant damage to our country. It's too early to determine whether the damage can be undone, but it's safe to say that Barack Obama and his administration have eroded our trust in the honesty, competence, and ethics of those who lead us.

Back in late September, 2015, Noah Rothman wrote:
Obama’s promise was to be a transformative figure, his supporters averred. He would reverse a suspiciously colonialist Bush-era foreign policy, deliver the country into a post-racial period, and restore America’s faith in the power of collectivism and the righteous efficacy of government. As the winter of the Obama presidency approaches, it seems beyond dispute that this presidency has robbed Americans of what remaining faith they had in the value of collective action. The power of massive governmental programs to effect positive change is, at best, dubious. The tragedy of it all is that cynicism has replaced shock when the latest scandalous revelations hit the newsstands. That’s dangerous. The expectation of corruption is a condition that saps a nation’s faith in the virtue of self-governance. It is this kind of contempt for public institutions that leads republics to ruin.
Personally, I have never felt less confident in the federal government. Its incompetence and intrusiveness is bolstered by duplicitous politicians and self-aggrandizing bureaucrats (from both parties) who protect its continual spread with excuses and lies. Barack Obama sits at the tip of the big intrusive government (BIG) pyramid. It has been his goal to grow government. In so doing, he has increased dependency, stifled economic growth, and weakened the United States around the world. Early in his presidency, he promised to make our country respected throughout the world. Instead, he and his Team of 2s have made us a laughingstock.

Barack Obama is the worst president in my lifetime and arguably, the worst president in the history of the United States. A winning smile, an ability to read a teleprompter with natural intonation, and the obvious fact that Obama is the first African American president, do absolutely nothing to change my assessment of the man, his lack of accomplishment, or the potentially irreparable damage he has done.

Is there any good that can come out of Barack Obama's presidency? It's hard to say. Some good can be derived from the Obama era if the American people learn from it. But what, exactly, is there to learn?

Those of us who were on the record opposing Barack Obama in 2008 had a long list of solid reasons for doing so. Caught up in what can only be called mass hysteria, few voters listened. But I suspect that the majority of those who opposed Obama's election never in their wildest dreams believed that a president could do so much damage on both the domestic and foreign policy fronts in the relatively short span of seven years.

Here's what we can learn: Ideologically driven decision making, coupled with lack of executive experience, coupled with no skill in team building (the Team of 2s), coupled with an inability to adapt and change course, coupled with a hyper-partisan world view that rejects meaningful negotiation and demonizes opponents, all coupled with a copious dose of hubris—leads to ruin.

If the voting public learns that lesson as a result of the Obama presidency, some good will come out of it. If they vote accordingly in 2016, more good will come out of it. But if American voters refuse to learn the lessons that this president has inadvertently taught us all, choosing instead to continue Obama's failed domestic and foreign policies under a political party that allowed him to do great damage, our country will reach a point of no recovery and will experience a long and often painful decline.  Time will tell.